10th Air Rescue Squadron

The 10th Air Rescue Squadron (ARS), an active duty squadron organized at Elmendorf Field in 1946 and mostly manned by Alaskans. The 10th had itself inherited the tradition of the 924th Quartermaster Company, Boat (Aviation), a rescue unit which was constituted in Alaska on 14 June 1942, saw action during the Aleutian Island Campaign, was redesigned the 10th Emergency Rescue Boat Squadron on 3 July 1944, and was inactivated on 8 March 1946.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the 10th ARS operated detachments at Elmendorf AFB, Ladd AFB and Adak Naval Station. The squadron operated a mixture of OA-10s, OA-12s, SB-17 Flying Fortress, C-45s, L-5s, LC-126As, R-5 Helicopters and CG-4 Gliders.

The 10th ARS used dog teams as part of search and rescue operations in Alaska and had jump-qualified dogs, which had to have five jumps to wear jump wings, assigned to the unit. Joe Redington, Sr., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Redington, famous Alaskan dog sled racer, is thought to have had had a strong association with the 10th Air Rescue Squadron. http://www.eielson.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123405168

Expanded into the 10th Air Rescue Group on 14 November 1952, the subordinate Alaska Air Command unit became the 71st Air Rescue Squadron and pioneered arctic search and rescue techniques.

1st Lt. Charles O. Weir was one of the first helicopter pilots assigned to the 10th ARS.

“  In early 1945, he was among the second group of rated pilots to graduate from helicopter school.  Assigned the 10th Rescue Boat Squadron at Elmendorf Army Air Field, Alaska, then – 1st Lt. Weir arrived to find his helicopter – the only chopper on base – still in a crate.  He had to put it together himself.

  “There was a lot of confusion on the flight line in those days because there weren’t any regulations covering helicopter flight”, he said. One day I called the tower folks and told them I’d be hovering around the ramp for a while. They called back and asked if I had filed a flight plan.  I explained I didn’t need a flight plan to hover two feet off the ground but the Operations Officer demanded to see this thing called a helicopter.

  “On the way, I passed a group of guys swabbing down some B-29’s.  When they saw me coming at them – two feet off the ground in a swirl of dust and making all that noise – one guy fell off  the wing of the B-29 and another fell from a tug and broke his arm.  What a mess.”

  Reservations about the ungainly flying machines aside, officials soon recognized the helicopter’s adaptability to perform rescue chores.  But flying night missions in Alaska in aircraft never intended to fly in the dark or in cold weather posed unique problems.

  Too many times to remember, Lt. Weir resorted to reading his instruments by the light of a flickering cigarette lighter.  “Things were pretty primitive then,” he said, “but we couldn’t convince the manufacturers we needed lights.  They didn’t believe we flew at night simply because helicopters weren’t designed to.”

  Nor were they designed for cold weather flying.   “Once, I had to spend the night at a rescue site,” Charlie recalled.  “There was no self-support gear then, and I knew the engine wouldn’t start in the morning if the battery was too cold.  So, I improvised.   “To keep the battery warm, I took it out of the chopper and put it in my sleeping bag with me.  Every few hours, I went out to the helicopter, plugged in the battery and ran the engine for a few minutes before taking it back to the sleeping bag with me. That’s the only way I got out of there in the morning.”

The 10th ARG was deactivated on 8 January 1958.

The history of the 10th ARS is today maintained by the 210th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/210th_Rescue_Squadron